After moving from London to Northern Ireland James saw a need for a Youth Theatre School here to give children a taste of what it was like to perform in a professional production in a professional environment.
James went on to open a series of schools in many locations around Northern Ireland. Under his artistic direction, the school quickly became the largest youth and children’s theatre school on the island of Ireland.
Meet our wonderful team
Principal, Founder & Director
James Huish Biography
James founded Belfast School of Performing Arts 6 years ago this January. In that short space of time the company has gone from strength to strength. As a vocal/songwriter coach and performance studies coach, James has taught performing Arts and conducted workshops to children all around the UK before moving to Belfast ten years ago.
James is a performer in his own right having played. Tony, West Side Story (Hull New Theatre), Kenickie and Teen Angel, Grease (Civic Theatre, Scunthorpe), Lewis, Escape (The Castle Theatre) Beast, Beauty and the Beast (Grand Opera House, Belfast), Fred Barrett, Titanic (Grand Opera House, Belfast). James also performed in Chamber concerts of ‘Miss Saigon’ and ‘Les Misérables’ in London’s West End.
There have been many highlights in his career. Two of which stand out. Producing a concert for a Broadway star and being a guest singer with her – Northern Ireland’s one and only Rachel Tucker star of Wicked in London’s West End and Broadway. The second of which was performing along side his theatre school children on the iconic television show, Children in Need.
James also enjoys writing. He has written a song called “Heavenly Blessing”, sung by Jolene O’Hara. The song was written to raise funds for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Charity. This is available to download from itunes. All proceeds go to the charity.
James was recently asked by Fortwilliam Musical Society to reestablish their youth group. James is happy to lend his name and time to this project. James and FMSY produced a spectacular performance of “Cats the Musical” at the Theatre at the Mill this year and is looking forward to this years performance of Singin’ In The Rain.
Directorial credits includes- Accidental Pervert, Cats, Aladdin, Miss Saigon SE, Les Miserables SE, West Side Story, Beauty and the Beast, Annie, Oliver!, Ghost The Musical, Meet Me in St. Louis and Calamity Jane. James is currently directing “Les Miserables SE” for National Stage School in the Helix, Dublin.
James is a professional singer and performs all over Ireland. James has many exciting projects for the future and is looking forward to working with all age groups both UK wide and Internationally.
Principal & Co-Founder of AMTA
Kenneth Avery-Clark Biography
Kenneth is an accomplished West End actor, writer, director, and producer and is a co-founder and the Principal of AMTA. He recently directed the Broadway Revival version of GODSPELL, which toured the UK. West End acting credits include THE PRODUCERS, RAGTIME, SWEET CHARITY, THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, and 125th STREET. He has shared the stage with Nathan Lane, Lee Evans, Liza Minnelli, Elton John, Olivia Newton-John, Elaine Paige and others.
He has performed for British Royalty on two occasions and for the prestigious Chichester Festival in the critically acclaimed production of THE MUSIC MAN. In 2014, Kenneth performed in the musical he co-wrote, THE SINGING TEACHER, off the West End. He is dedicated to helping young performers reach their full potential and realize their dreams.
Education Dev. Co-ordinator
Clare Donnelly Biography
Clare teaches Music and Special Needs in Holy Trinity Primary School, Belfast. Clare began dancing with the late Patricia Mulholland and she learnt stage management with Ulster Theatre Company under the direction of Michael Poynor.
Having been a dancer from the age of five it was only natural that Clare progressed onto choreography. As an award winning choreographer favourite works have included – Oliver!, Cats the Musical and Peter Pan the Musical,
Clare is also an award winning stage manager. She thoroughly enjoys the challenge of “calling” a busy musical. Recent work includes, Wizard of Oz, Sweeney Todd (Fortwilliam Musical Society), James Huish and His Band (James Huish), Go the Distance (Mary Peter’s Trust), Ghost the Musical (Ulster Operatic Company), Aladdin (BDO Accountancy Firm), Accidental Pervert (A Show in a Box) and The World Goes Round (Blunt Fringe Productions).
Clare is currently enjoying working with Fortwilliam Musical Youth on their spring production of Singin’ in the Rain.
Clare looking forward to some new challenges this year.
Production Musical Director
Wilson Shields Biography
Wilson is currently musical director for the Grand Opera House Summer Youth Project, Belvoir Players, Belfast Music and Drama Society, New Lyric Operatic Company, St Agnes Choral Society and Ulster Operatic Company. He was also MD of the GOH Christmas pantomime for 15 seasons. He is also in constant demand as a repetiteur / accompanist for the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) and Royal Schools of Music ( ABRSM)
Wilson has conducted the N Ireland premieres of Mack and Mabel, Camelot , Witches of Eastwick , Copacabana , Chess, West Side Story ( amateur premiere), Legally Blonde, White Christmas and Ghost. Wilson has been musical director of the Grand Opera House Summer Youth Project for the past 5 seasons and with James Huish directing he conducted the recent inaugural production of Les Miserable Schools Edition at the theatre ( following previous productions of Miss Saigon S.E. and West Side Story alongside James)
Future projects this coming season include productions of Footloose, Oliver, Me and My Girl, Little Shop of Horrors, The Sound of Music, Rock of Ages, Spamalot.and The Producers.
Acting & Rep Instructor
Kelly Brown Biography
Kelly comes from a family with a history of performing so from a young age would perform on stage in touring shows and cabarets with her Mother (Renee Marsden, Cabaret and Showband singer) and Uncle (Derek Marsden, Cabaret, Showband performer and Radio presenter)
Kelly has trained in most disciplines of theatre and performance with many well-known teachers and industry professionals including Bonnie Lithgoe (Choreographer, Producer and Judge on American & Australian ‘So you think you can dance’ TV show), Roma Tomelty (Centre Stage School, Belfast), The Faculty of ‘The Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts’ (London), many courses at ‘Pineapple Dance Studio’ and with local schools throughout Ireland.
Touring and performing with many bands and Singers in her late teens Kelly performed as a back-up singer for acts including Gloria Gaynor and Engelbert Humperdinck in venues throughout the UK and Europe.
Kelly came to the public eye in 1999 when she competed in and went on to be the outright winner of the BBC/RTE joint TV talent show ‘Let Me Entertain You’. This led to many successful years of work as a singer, touring with her own back up dancers and singers.
Other Tv credits include ‘The Kelly Show’- UTV, ‘Children In Need’- BBC, ‘The Late Late Show’- RTE, ‘George Jones Special’- UTV and ‘UTV Live’- UTV.
Kelly has also taken part in various radio plays for the BBC. Kelly was cast in the World Premiere of a new musical by Shaun Purcell, ‘Requiem for Julie’ in the Rupert Guinness Theatre, Dublin.
Kelly is an award winning performer who has also been fortunate to perform in the Irish premieres of many shows including ‘Copacabana’ playing ‘Lola’, ‘The Witches of Eastwick’ playing ‘Alexandra’ and ‘Ghost The Musical’ playing ‘Ode Mae Brown’ all within the beautiful Grand Opera House, Belfast.
Other theatre credits include ‘Lady Jaqueline’- ‘Me and My Girl’, ‘Ado Annie’- ‘Oklahoma’, ‘Katisha’- ‘The Hot Mikado’, ‘Miss Adelaide’- ‘Guys n Dolls’, ‘Eliza Doolittle’- ‘My Fair Lady’ to name a few.
Kelly has also been teaching throughout her career and has always loved passing on skills, passion and especially confidence to those young people who are keen to learn and grow.
Head of Dance & Choreographer
Sarah Collyer Biography
Sarah hails from Northern Ireland, and trained in dance and musical theatre for three years at Laine Theatre Arts.
On graduating from Laine Theatre Arts with a Level 6 Diploma in Dance, and an Associate with Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance, Sarah has enjoyed working on variety of dance projects including “Sky Striker” for Sky Television, The Royal Variety Show, before taking up a position with the “Compania do Bailado’ in Oporto, Portugal. As well as performing with them she went on to choreograph various modern works for the company’s repertoire and teach in their academy.
Upon returning to London Sarah was appointed the role of choreographer for Ata productions and with them she worked on;
To Die For – Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Life on Earth – London Palladium.
The Tour -London Palladium., Time of our Life – Royal Albert Hall.
She founded “Limelight Academy of Performing Arts” in 1997 which had five academies based around the home counties of Southern England and continues to thrive today.
She returned to Northern Ireland in 2005 and now uses her experience as a lecturer on the full-time Performing Arts and Dance Vocational Courses at South Eastern Regional College, she also enjoys working as a freelance choreographer here in Northern Ireland.
Head of Voice
Cillian Donaghy Biography
Originally from Northern Ireland, Cillian Donaghy is currently studying a masters in musical theatre at Guildford School of Acting. This is following his recent graduation from the prestigious ‘Joint Course’ where he studied music at the University of Manchester and classical singing with the Royal Northern College of Music.
Previous roles include Jean Valjean (Les Misérables), Bobby (Company), Motel (Fiddler on the Roof) and Acis (Acis and Galatea). His credits as a classical soloist include Handel’s Messiah, Bach’ s Christmas Oratorio and Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Cillian also enjoyed minor solos in performances of Macmillan’s Seven Last Words from the Cross and Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion, both accompanied and recorded by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
Cillian has been lucky enough to work with the Edvard Greig Kor and Bergen National Opera, based in Norway, on their productions of Bellini’s i Capuleti e i Montechi and Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia. Other choral ensembles Cillian has performed with include National Youth Choir, RNCM Chamber Choir, Manchester Chamber Choir and Kantos Chamber Choir; the latter two of which included a number of performances on BBC Radio 3’s daily service.
As a conductor Cillian has led the Macclesfield Mydel Choir, the University of Manchester Medic’s Orchestra and assisted on the summer programme of the Hallé Youth Choir. Cillian’s previous musical directing credits include work with Youth Music Theatre UK, Royal Northern College of Music Young Company, South Manchester Amateur Operatic Society and Voiceworks NI; productions include Tess of the D’Urbervilles (new musical by Pippa Cleary), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Rent (School Edition), Oliver!, Annie and The Mikado.
Aside from performing Cillian is an avid producer and has worked as a project manager with RNCM’s learning and outreach department on projects such as Singin’ in the Rain, Children’s Opera and Rent. Cillian is also the former co-director of Voiceworks NI a youth performance company with the aim to open up performance opportunities to Mid-Ulster and the surrounding area.
Little Academy Leader
Faith Garrett Biography
Faith is a Lecturer in Childhood Studies and Special Educational Needs at Belfast Metropolitan College. She is also a graduate of Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, London. As a result of this, she is not only passionate about child development but about children reaching their true potential through the means of dance, drama and music.
In the past Faith was Head of Drama at Our Lady and Pope John School, Corby, Northants, teaching Drama up to A’level. Since returning home to Belfast she has ran a very successful preschool music Education Programme, Music with Mummy and taught dance for Belvior Players for a number of years.
As a working mother of two young boys, she understands the importance of leaving her children somewhere where they will be valued, viewed as special and unique… she knows that the JH Little Academy will be that place!
Fitness & Health Instructor
Edel Scanlon Biography
Edel is committed & externally focused on the balancing of Personal Health, Nutrition and Fitness in life.
Her aim is to introduce, educate, train & support people wishing to implement & develop the same balance in their lives.
Edel is skilled in many other areas including Relationship building, Problem solving, Client development, Providing support & motivation whilst encompassing a understanding, friendly, reliable and approachable manner.
Assistant Artistic Director
Tony Young Biography
Tony’s love for the theatre began back in P5 at primary school, during a visit to Belfast’s Grand Opera House. It was also at this venue that Tony began his career in education following his graduation from Stranmillis University College. Over a period of 5 years Tony fulfilled a number of roles at the theatre including Personal Assistant to the Director and Education Officer. In 2001 Tony moved into teaching full time at a primary school in North Belfast where he continues to this day.
Over the past few years Tony has been active on the local musical theatre scene appearing with a number of companies across Belfast. Tony has been seen on stage with Fortwilliam Musical Society, St Agnes’ Choral Society, Ulster Operatic and B.M.D.S. He has appeared in Oliver (Fagin), Me & My Girl (Bill), Thoroughly Modern Millie (Jimmy), Sweeney Todd (ensemble),Hairspray (Edna),Ghost (Hospital Ghost) and Footloose (Reverend Shaw).
Last year Tony played The Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz for which he was nominated for an AIMS award for Best Supporting Actor.